Family businesses seem to flourish in a distant, but very important, part of the country, namely Upington in the Northern Cape. The town, famous not only for its extreme temperatures but fine wine and grapes, is located close to the southern border of Namibia and the south eastern border of Botswana. The nearest big town, Kimberley, is about 400 km away.
Dealerfloor spoke to Willem du Toit, Director and Dealer Principal at Zelco Motors, the Mitsubishi dealership about its interesting history and doing business in this part of the world… and Dakar.
1: Tell as a bit more about Zelco Motors. Has it been owned by different families over the years?
The dealership was established in the late Seventies and started trading as Zelco Motors, the Mercedes-Benz dealership, in the early Eighties. It belonged to the Van Zyl family with the locally well-known Tat van Zyl the Dealer Principal untill the late Nineties. He passed away in 2000, and his brother, Kempen, took the reins, later followed by his son, Thomas.
In 2012 my brother Barnard, our dad and I bought the business from the Van Zyls. My brother has since left the business, and my father and I are the directors with me filling the position as the Dealer Principal.
Early this year, we cancelled our dealership agreement with Mercedes-Benz. We are still the Mitsubishi dealership and have a well-established used car business. We are also in the process of expanding our workshop to service and repair any kind of vehicle.
2: How is Mitsubishi doing in this area?
Since we can now focus all our attention on the Mitsubishi brand, sales have improved. New products like the ASX and Eclipse Cross and more new models coming our way create a lot of excitement for this iconic brand. The new Pajero Sport will arrive in the fourth quarter of this year and overseas reviews of this vehicle are extremely positive. We can’t wait to have this vehicle on our dealer floor.
3: What model in the Mitsubishi product range is the most popular here?
We have quite an even distribution in terms of popularity, but the biggest demand is for the Triton double cab bakkie, especially the new Xtreme edition.
4: Upington is quite remote and some will say that travelling long distances is not uncommon for you. How far do you travel?
We are used to travelling long distances and nothing makes that task easier and more joyful than doing it in a nice, reliable vehicle. Our area of business stretches from Kathu, Kuruman, Postmasburg in the east to Springbok and McDougall’s Bay in the west, Mier and the Kgalagadi Park in the north, and Calvinia south of Upington.
Our service area, which includes sales and after-sales, is the biggest of all Mitsubishi dealers. It does present challenges but fortunately the reliability of our products makes the task easier.
5: South Africa is a bakkie country, and you are situated in an important farming region. Who are your biggest clients and what are the challenges doing business in a town like Upington?
Upington itself has a small population and has no large towns nearby, so it is a challenge finding enough customers! We are in a farming community that is dependent on the weather. If the farmers are doing well, the whole town is doing well.
The Triton bakkie is popular in this region because it is as comfortable as an SUV, and with the Super Select 4x4 you can use all-wheel drive mode on both tar and gravel roads for good road holding all day long. The legendary off-road capabilities of the Triton with its Dakar heritage are also well-known by enthusiasts.
6: What about awards and achievements at the dealership?
Zelco Motors has won four out of the last seven Aftersales Dealer of the Year Awards for Small Dealers with the latest victory last year.
7: Tell us a more about yourself.
I started as an articled clerk at the audit firm, Du Toit van den Heever, and went on to manage JAM Stationers up to 2012 when we took over Zelco Motors.
8: Any hobbies, sport or other activity that you do in your leisure time? What is the Dakar connection?
I am a bit of a motorsport fanatic, and I am privileged to take part in off-road racing with both motorcycles and vehicles.
I took part in the 2018 Dakar Rally on a motorcycle and achieved a 58th position.
In 2019, I won the overall class P and special vehicle championship in the South African Inland Off-Road Racing Championship. In between I also finished an Iron Man Triathlon and the Epic Bike Race. My wife always says: “You don’t like easy”. We have two sons, and we enjoy doing things together like camping, fishing and riding motorcycles.
9: What do you drive, or should I say ride?
When I was a youngster, I always followed the Dakar Rally on television and dreamed about a Mitsubishi Pajero and KTM motorbike, the two most dominant competitors in the Dakar’s history. I am privileged to say I drive around in a Pajero and Triton bakkies, and I have two KTMs at home.
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